National Versus International Protection

Patents issued in the United States extend to products made or methods practiced in the United States, used in the United States or sold in the United States. U.S. patents do not protect against production outside of the United States. In a global economy, companies should consider obtaining patent protection in at least Europe, Canada, China and Japan. The European Patent Office, located in Munich, has the power to grant a  patent covering most of the major European countries. Generally speaking, the process of obtaining foreign patents is slower and more cumbersome than the patent process in the U.S. The decision whether to obtain patents in other countries may often be deferred until almost one year after the initial filing of a U .S. patent application. An international convention gives the applicant the benefit of the first filing date in a subscribing country so long as subsequent applications are filed within a year. Most foreign countries require absolute novelty of an invention before granting a patent. Publicly disclosing the invention prior to filing the U.S. patent application can place the invention in the public domain in many foreign countries and thus destroy absolute novelty.  A provisional patent application may be one way to prevent the applicant's commercial activities from being prior art in foreign countries.

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